U.S. Could Sanction China Over Iran Oil Imports

The Trump administration is prepared to impose sanctions on all countries that buy oil from Iran after a deadline in November, including China, the top importer of Iranian crude, the chief of the new Iran Action Group, Brian Hook, said on Thursday.

Hook said the U.S. would issue waivers from sanctions to countries that have made efforts to reduce their Iranian oil purchases, Wall Street Journal informed. India and South Korea are among Iran’s top oil customers, and both countries already have started to scale back imports and are hoping to obtain waivers to buy more time to replace Iranian crude.

China, however, repeatedly has said it has no plans to comply with a wave of U.S. sanctions that are due to be reimposed on Iran’s energy sector on November 4. In a response to a question about China’s plan to continue importing Iranian oil at a State Department briefing on Thursday, Hook refused to rule out imposing secondary sanctions on Beijing as punishment.

“The United States certainly hopes for full compliance by all nations in terms of not risking the threat of U.S. secondary sanctions if they continue with those transactions. We are prepared to impose secondary sanctions on other governments that continue this sort of trade with Iran,” Hook said, regarding the Iran Action Group’s plan for dealing with China.

China, which imports over one-quarter of Iran’s oil, stated on multiple occasions that trade with Iran, across a range of economic and energy sectors, is lawful and that it doesn’t plan to reduce imports.

Earlier this month the U.S. managed to secure a promise from China that it will not expand its Iranian oil imports, but given the tariff escalation between the two, it’s possible that China could revoke this promise. This is more than likely unless the next talks, which are planned for later this month, put an end to the trade war between the two sides, OilPrice writes.

An Iran Action Group was set up this week, with the purpose of applying maximum pressure on Tehran in hopes of spurring a change of government.

Crude oil is the number-one target of the sanctions, and Washington officials have been very busy in the last few months trying to secure commitments from its allies that they will stop importing Iranian oil. The task has proved challenging, however, because of China. Other Asian importers of Iranian oil are hoping to secure waivers from the sanctions because they would be hard put to quickly find an alternative to the attractively priced Iranian crude, OilPrice informs.

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